On the whole, DH and I agree that we don’t want everybody to know we’re dealing with infertility. Partly this is because we don’t want all the unsolicited but well-meaning advice fertile people tend to give when they find out you’re infertile. Advice like “just adopt” or even, “I had to use clomid; it’s no big deal.” (Yes, someone did say that to me. How I wish that were even an option for us!)
Partly it’s because we don’t want people we care about tiptoeing around us when they find out they’re pregnant. One of my best friends, who started TTC a couple months before we did and who knew we were TTC, had her first baby in December and is already expecting her second (a surprise) in January. Even before she knew we had received actual news that we were infertile, she opted not to tell us her news until she was more than four months along. She said she was hoping I would call to tell her we were expecting before she had to tell me she was. I appreciate the concern, but it doesn’t make me feel any better when being infertile already leaves me feeling left out.
Lately, DH’s mom has been pushing us to tell his family. I’m not sure exactly why that is so important to her, but we considered it and have decided we are okay with his grandparents knowing that we’re probably doing infertility treatments next year. We decided not to tell his cousins because we don’t want them to change their behavior (one is pregnant and the other has a 1-year-old). And we decided that we don’t want to say when we’re starting or give any other specific info on timing because if it works, I want to tell the family when I’m ready, not have them calling me to find out two weeks after our treatments. And I don’t want to have to report on every failed attempt, either.
So we told my MIL she could let her parents and DH’s other grandparents know but that we weren’t really interested in calling out of the blue to say, “Hi, how are you? We’re infertile.” We told her to be vague; that she could say we were dealing with infertility and would have to do medical treatments but we didn’t want her to go into details about why we were struggling. We told her to tell them to feel free to call us if they had any questions.
So she did. She told her parents on Sunday. They immediately expressed sorrow and wondered what, exactly, was wrong. Since we told my MIL not to get into specifics, she didn’t.
When they called later that evening to tell me they were sorry and that they’d be praying for us, DH’s grandma told me about the marvelous PBS documentary on Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.” She told me a great analogy about how sometimes in life we come against a brick wall. And maybe we can’t get through it, but we may be able to go over it or under it or even around it. Either way, we hope that in the end we’ll get to the other side of it. And she told me about a song that was popular when she was growing up that she thought I might find comforting. She was very nice and I think I’m glad she knows (in a general sense) what we’re going through, and I’m glad they are praying for us. But she didn’t ask me any questions, so I didn’t feel pressured to go into details.
A lot of the assumptions people make about infertility–about whose body is at fault, that it’s because we “waited too long,” that it’s a result of STDs or other youthful indiscretions–really bug me. But at this point our privacy about the details is more important to us than addressing those assumptions. Maybe when we get to the other side of this brick wall (if we ever do) we can talk about it more openly and even change someone’s perspective. In the meantime, I’m glad DH’s grandparents are being supportive. And I’m also glad we’ve been protective about who we tell.